MUSINGS ON FASHION HISTORY. JEANNE LANVIN.

We have all been transfixed by the ruffles, embellishments and cocktail dresses that Lanvin is known for. Lanvin is hailed as being the oldest fashion house in Paris and a true definition of a strong heritage brand. It’s currently celebrating its 125th anniversary by venturing into the world of its founder. Madame Jeanne Lanvin’s creative vision still lives on in the designs of Alber Elbaz. This is evident in the brand’s collections which always have a focus on demonstrating the different facets of femininity through the use of ornamented details.

Jeanne Lanvin was born in 1867 and started her career in dressmaking when she was 13. She started working for the milliner Suzanne Talbot. She later went on to trim hats in Mme Felix’s Millinery before setting up her own millinery workshop and, in 1889, she established her own hatmaking business.

If you take a look at the Lanvin logo you will see a mother and daughter touching hands. Her relationship with her daughter Marguerite Marie-Blanche played a very important role in the shaping and evolution of the brand. Jeanne Lanvin designed the clothes for her daughter’s wardrobe and her peers were intrigued by her creations. This prompted her to start designing childrenswear and the demand inspired a women and girls’ line in 1909. The similarity between the lines highlighted a youthful aesthetic in Lanvin’s designs and spoke to the popularity of mother and daughter dresses later on. At this time she also joined the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture.

Her signature style was a dress called the Robe de Style or picture dress which consisted of a nipped-in and dropped waist with a wide skirt finishing just above the ankle. These dresses were inspired by 18th century court dress. The look was romantic and picturesque and used rich fabrics. She had simple patterns which she then elevated through the use of fabric, ribbon, embroidery and appliqué. Lanvin was influenced by visual arts and incorporated this into her designs.

Whilst on a trip to Florence, it is said that she saw a Fra Angelico fresco in a “quattrocento blue” which then became the staple colour of the house. She opened her own factory to produce the dye affectionately known as “Lanvin Blue”. Lanvin was also one of the first brands to branch into different departments; encompassing interior design, fragrance, fur, lingerie and menswear.

Jeanne Lanvin continued to operate during World War Two and designed special collections for women who were involved in the war effort. She also helped in the post-war initiative to boost the fashion economy by including her designs in the Théâtre de la Mode travelling exhibition. This exhibition featured miniature dolls dressed in couture. Jeanne Lanvin died shortly after in 1946 and her daughter took over the company.

To celebrate the brand’s anniversary, every Thursday Lanvin will be adding new historical content to its Facebook and Instagram pages. You can follow its updates through #lanvin125 and on 125ans.lanvin.com. Some treats from the archive include video footage of Jeanne Lanvin doing fittings and some of her design sketches.

Written by Giselle La Pompe-Moore. Images © as captioned.